If you know me well, you know that I love the power that can be found in asking question. Not just any question, but the RIGHT question.
The understanding that the question is more important than the answer was first given to me as a gift from a friend when I turned 25. I was at a place in my life where I was really trying to find the answer to the BIGGEST question in most of our lives: Who am I?
My friend gave me a letter from my now favourite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. The letter was from a series of letters that Rilke had written to another poet about 8 years younger than he was (at the time Rainer was around 28 I think). The letter said this:
"You are so young, you have not even begun, and I would like to beg you, dear sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that is unresolved in your heart and to try to cherish the questions themselves, like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given to you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live yourself right into the answer."
This letter changed my life. It changed me because it told me that it was ok to have so many questions. In fact, it was better to have questions than answers. Questions guide us and help move us forward, answers can often freeze us in place.
So today, six years later on my 31st birthday, I wanted to give you a gift that a great friend once gave me.
Here are five questions I've asked myself in the past six years that have truly helped me find my way. I hope they do the same for you.
Live The Questions,
1. Am I happy?
This was probably the most important question I had asked myself (and continue to ask from time to time) as I grew into myself. It forced me to, at the time, admit that I wasn't and that, if I wanted to be happy, things were going to have to change. There were choices I needed to make in order to be happy. We can't change things if we don't know what needs to be changed.
2. What do I need to be happy?
As I came to understand that I wasn't happy. The next step was to think about the things that were important to me. When was I happy? What contributed to that happiness and how can I bring more of it into my life. From time to time, when I am happy, I find myself writing down the things that are influencing my happiness so that I can make sure to bring more of those things in when I'm not.
3. What habits help me and which are hurting me?
They say it takes around 21 days to create a habit - I don't know who "they" are but...I believe them. Every three weeks or so, I try my best to sit down and look at the habits I've created for myself that are helping me - making me a better version of myself, contributing to my success - and the ones that are hurting me - holding me back from being my best or hurting others. As soon as I'm able to recognize which habits are helpful and which are hurtful I then have a choice to make: keep doing the helpful ones and stop doing the hurtful ones or...keep punching myself in face (figuratively).
4. Where does my time go?
The only thing that we all have of equal amounts as human beings is the amount of time we have in a day. I'll wait from you to recover from that mind-blowing realization before I keep going.
As soon I as started to pay more attention to the amount of time I spent doing things that were helping me personally and professionally develop and how much time I spent doing things that were holding me back (like creeping Facebook or spending two hours Googling "why does my cat..." just to see what pops up), I started to use my time more effectively. I still Google though...
5. Who Supports Me?
Taking the time to look around and see who are the people in my life that are truly invested in my well-being was one of the most important things I did for myself. It meant that there were some people I had to let go of (because they didn't support my growth) and there were some people I needed to add to my life (like people who were just as invested in their own growth as I was in mine). I'm a strong believer that we're a product of the people we surround ourselves with...both in our real lives and online.
Matt Tod is an international speaker, leadership facilitator, writer and lover of all things Zombie-related.